This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Citrix Synergy 2015 conference coverage

Citrix acquires Sanbolic, fires shot at VMware VSAN

To kick off 2015, Citrix acquired storage virtualization vendor Sanbolic. The buy could help Citrix compete against VMware's VSAN.

Just before Citrix's partner event, Citrix Summit, the company acquired Sanbolic, fulfilling what many believed to be its destiny -- storage virtualization.

Don't get me wrong -- Citrix isn't all of a sudden a storage company -- but since March of 2014, VMware has held a competitive advantage with its VSAN product. Citrix acquiring Sanbolic has the potential to level the playing field.

The first thing to note here is that Sanbolic is not a hardware company. It is a software-only storage virtualization tool that has been around for a number of years. If you're familiar with the company, it's probably because of the Melio FS product. Melio was an active-active clustered file system designed to spread data across multiple servers for the purposes of high availability, scalability and performance.

Before the acquisition, the combination of features in Melio addressed some very important needs for Citrix customers who used Citrix Provisioning Services. Sanbolic had a much broader story that encompassed many storage needs, but the company managed to carve out a nice niche for itself within the Citrix ecosystem.

Melio now has a new name -- Sanbolic Scale-Out platform -- and with that comes a renewed direction. The Sanbolic Scale-Out platform is designed to run on just about anything from random servers you have laying around to a homogenous environment from a single vendor, either on-premises or in the cloud. The same technology that was in Melio has been expanded to support all of these configurations, meaning that the once-powerful product with a narrow use case now has potential applications anywhere in your organization.

Sanbolic positions itself as a converged infrastructure platform and, through a few key vendor relationships, as a hyper-converged platform. It also still provides the software-defined storage (SDS) and storage virtualization elements customers are used to.

What might Citrix do with Sanbolic?

The lowest of the low-hanging fruit here is that Citrix could integrate the elements of Melio FS that were so appropriate for Provisioning Services into that product. Next up the tree is where it gets interesting: Is Citrix going to use the Sanbolic acquisition to compete with VMware VSAN? It certainly looks that way.

Since March, when VSAN was released, potential customers could get the complete stack with VMware, which was a significant advantage. Storage virtualization vendors treat VSAN as if it's not a big deal, but what company shopping for storage virtualization hasn't at least considered the product that's more or less included with their current platform?

Prior to VSAN, both Citrix and VMware had the same message: "Yeah, software-defined storage is cool. You should call a company that has that." After VSAN, and after VMware announced application publishing in Horizon 6, VMware's message changed: "We can do storage virtualization now, and did you also know that we can do the same thing XenApp does?"

The odds are good that Citrix will assemble a VSAN competitor of some sort, and we could get a preview of it this May at Citrix Synergy in Orlando. But from there, I'm not sure what Citrix could be thinking.

I can picture the Sanabolic acquisition being a boon for service providers who can pay for storage virtualization on a per-user basis now, making it easier to predict their cost models based on subscribed users. Citrix could have more up its sleeve, too. In fact, we just might learn more as Citrix Summit 2015 unfolds in Las Vegas. It's typically a non-disclosure agreement event for partners only, but Citrix has used it to generate some pre-Synergy buzz in recent years. Stay tuned.

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